Spotlight

Ships thousands of miles at sea are mysteriously reporting GPS positions near Point Reyes, which is off the coast of San Francisco. Dr. Todd Humphreys believes that this is part of the worldwide maritime spoofing that he has been studying over the past few years.

"I think we're witnessing [...] the emergence of commodity off-the-shelf spoofing devices," Humphreys said. "Someone somewhere is selling cheap turnkey GPS spoofers."

Read the full story in this Newsweek article.

Maritime GPS spoofing is a worldwide puzzle, and researchers have yet to uncover the motivation behind the spoofing. Until recently, spoofing signals were always broadcast over large areas to affect many ships. It now seems that spoofing has become more targeted; sometimes only one ship is affected. This suggests that new, low-power spoofing hardware has become available. In an article from New Scientist, Dr. Todd Humphreys explains: 

“Over a decade ago, Chinese companies began to offer cheap jammers, which became known as ‘personal privacy devices'. I think what we’re witnessing here is the emergence of commoditized spoofing: someone has begun selling a low-cost spoofing device for use on ships.”

Read the New Scientist article here.

Dr. Todd Humphreys was invited to the Hexagon | NovAtel® offices in March 2020 to give a presentation on the Radionavigation Lab's recent research. Read the blog post on their website here.

In his presentation, titled "All-Weather Localization and Positioning for Self-Driving Cars," Dr. Humphreys covers material from two of the Lab's recent papers:

Together, these papers represent a significant step toward realizing safe and affordable self-driving cars.

Watch Dr. Humphreys's presentation here!

Lakshay Narula (center), Peter Iannucci (right), and Todd Humphreys (left) were awarded the Walter R. Fried Memorial Award for the best overall paper at the 2020 IEEE/ION PLANSx conference. Their paper, titled "Automotive-Radar-Based 50-cm Urban Positioning," presents a novel method of radar localization for autonomous vehicles in urban environments. Congratulations to the authors!

Read more about the paper and award on the university website.

As part of his recent paper for the IEEE/ION PLANSx conference, Lakshay Narula published an extensive dataset for urban positioning, called TEX-CUP: The University of Texas Challenge for Urban Positioning.

"Mass-market precise GNSS positioning is being researched now more than ever", Lakshay says. "To make progress as a research community, we need to evaluate new techniques on a shared dataset, and this dataset must be challenging and representative of typical urban driving. Self-driving car datasets available today do not provide raw IF GNSS data, or even the raw pseudorange and carrier-phase observables. With the release of TEX-CUP, we're hopeful that the precise positioning community will finally have a shared benchmark dataset. As we add data from many major cities around the world, we believe TEX-CUP will be the go-to dataset for precise GNSS evaluation."

We look forward to seeing what the community achieves with Lakshay's dataset!

This article from GPS World reports on GPS spoofing discovered in Iran. It references some of Dr. Humphreys's early work in GPS spoofing.

Admiration for GPS runs high among RNL alumni, as witnessed by K. Wesson's new license plate!

The Radionavigation Lab's work in GNSS interference detection was featured on the cover of Inside GNSS, a magazine dedicated to global navigation systems. Click here to read the article from Inside GNSS.

In 2017, the Radionavigation lab placed a custom software defined receiver onboard the International Space Station as part of a larger effort to study GNSS signals in the low Earth orbit environment. Over the two year study, multiple sources of GNSS interference were identified by analyzing data from the receiver. This work was done by Radionavigation Lab members Matthew Murrian (lead author), Lakshay Narula, and Todd Humphreys. Brady O'Hanlon from MITRE Corporation and Scott Budzien from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory were also collaborators on the project. Congratulations to the authors!

The Institute of Navigation presented awards at their International Technical Meeting in January. These recipients are affiliated with the Radionavigation Laboratory:

  • Dr. Zaher (Zak) Kassas (left) is a former member of the lab and current professor at the University of California, Irvine. He won the 2019 Institute of Navigation Thurlow Award "for foundational work in the theory and practice of exploiting signals of opportunity for accurate and reliable positioning, navigation and timing."

  • Dr. Todd Humphreys (center) was elected as a 2020 ION Fellow "for significant and fundamental contributions to PNT security and precise GNSS positioning for the mass market, and for dedication to GNSS education and outreach." See articles from GPS World and the Cockrell School of Engineering.

  • Dr. Ramsey Faragher (right) is the CEO of Focal Point Positioning and a close friend of the lab. He was awarded the 2019 Per Enge Early Achievement Award "for outstanding innovations in mobile positioning and navigation, and in particular for pioneering the revolutionary SuperCorrelation technology." See this article from The Royal Society about his collaboration with Dr. Humphreys.

The Army Futures Command (AFC) has partnered with the University of Texas at Austin to develop robots to assist with dangerous tasks on the battlefield. These robots will assist with non-combat jobs such as minesweeping and obstacle removal. This partnership has enabled the construction of a new robotics center at UT Austin.

“It’s a real endorsement for the Cockrell School and for UT in general,” says Dr. Humphreys, “There are really compelling problems here — at the edge of what we can currently do. For students interested in pushing the frontiers of science and research, it’s inspiring, it will have consequences, and the U.S. desperately needs it.”

Both the AFC and UT Austin are looking forward to a lasting partnership that will save lives on the battlefield while enriching students' educational experience. Read the full article from Texas Engineer for a glimpse of some of the upcoming research.

Dr. Todd Humphreys was interviewed by Fortune Magazine for his investigation of GPS spoofing and interference in the shipping industry. Read the Fortune article here.

Key infrastructure of the United States, including cell-phone networks, financial markets, the electric grid, and emergency services, all depend on GPS timing signals for basic operation. A large-scale, coordinated attack could be accomplished by only a dozen or so people with the right equipment, spread out across the country.

“There is no foolproof defense,” Humphreys says. “What you can try is to price your opponent out of the game” by deploying antispoofing countermeasures. However, “if your opponent happens to be the Russian Federation,” Humphreys says, “good luck.” This isn't an idle concern: the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, a Washington, D.C., research nonprofit, identified nearly 10,000 incidents originating at 10 locations that included the Russian Federation, Crimea and Syria. Experts in the U.S. government and in academia say Iran and North Korea also have the capability.

One solution is to implement a ground-based alternative to GPS in the form of eLoran (enhanced long-range navigation), which uses high-power, low-frequency signals that are difficult to jam or spoof. Although funding has been allocated for the construction of such a system in the United States, none has yet been spent. Many other countries rely on systems similar to eLoran as backups to GPS.

A more dramatic solution would be to augment GPS signals with digital signatures that authenticate the data by employing public-private key cryptographic methods. The signal coming from the current constellation of satellites cannot be changed, and an air force spokesperson said no plans exist to incorporate digital signatures into the next generation of satellites.

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys in Scientific American.

Researchers at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a nonprofit that analyzes global conflict and security issues, have published evidence suggesting that GPS signal spoofing is behind maritime AIS (automatic identification system) disruptions in Shanghai. Data aggregated over many weeks showed ship locations appearing at different locations in large "rings: on the eastern bank of the Huangpu river. 

At the ION GNSS+ conference in September, Dr. Humphreys showed a visualization of the data.

“To be able to spoof multiple ships simultaneously into a circle is extraordinary technology. It looks like magic,” he said. Attendees at the conference began to refer to the mysterious patterns as "crop circles."

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys in the MIT Technology Review to learn what some experts think might be the reason for the mystery spoofing.

Dr. Todd Humphreys has been investigating spoofing in Shanghai for quite some time. In this article for Inside GNSS, Humphreys offers a detailed analysis of ship positioning data and insight as to what's going on in Shanghai. 

Dr. Peter Iannucci presented to the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board at their semi-annual board meeting on November 20, 2019. His presentation, titled "Augmenting GPS with PNT from LEO", is available online.

"The National Space-Based PNT Advisory Board provides independent advice to the U.S. government on GPS-related policy, planning, program management, and funding profiles in relation to the current state of national and international satellite navigation services" (https://www.gps.gov/governance/advisory/).

The Army Futures Command (AFC) has named the University of Texas Radionavigation Lab (RNL) and Applied Research Laboratories (ARL) as its strategic partners in assured positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT).

Interviewed by GPS World, Dr. Humphreys revealed that RNL's main focus will be “… leveraging the tens of thousands of communications satellites projected to be in low earth orbit in the next few years for PNT services. [...] We are working with a major provider and already have some interesting results we can share.”

Read more from the Army News Service and GPS World.

 

 

For weeks, a mysterious source of GPS interference has been affecting aircraft in the Middle East. Since last spring, pilots flying through airspace around Syria have noted that their GPS systems have displayed the wrong location or even stopped working entirely. A few weeks ago, the issue spread to Israeli airspace when pilots started reporting navigation problems during takeoff and landing at Ben Gurion International Airport. Data collected by Todd Humphreys, an engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has located the source: the mystery signal originates inside a Russian air base in Syria.

 

This interference to Global Positioning System (GPS) reception does not appear to be targeted at Israel; instead, it is more likely collateral damage resulting from an effort by Moscow to protect its troops in the region in the wake of drone attacks. There is possibly another motivation; Humphreys suggests that a reason behind the interference may be to demonstrate Russia's “dominance in the radio spectrum.”

 

The interfering signals are so powerful, in fact, that they can be seen from space—it is using sensors onboard the International Space Station that Humphreys and his team have been tracking the phenomenon. They were able to pin down the source of the signal: Khmeimim Air Base, the center of Russia's presence in Syria since 2015. According to Humphreys, the interfering signal appears to be a combination of jamming, in which valid GPS signals are drowned out by radio noise, and spoofing, in which valid GPS signals are mimicked in such a way as to cause receivers to report incorrect results.

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys in The Times of Israel.

 

 

Todd Humphreys was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for 2019. The PECASE is the highest honor given by the United States government to scientists and engineers beginning their research careers. Nominated for the PECASE by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Humphreys is also a recipient of the UT Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award (2012), the NSF CAREER Award (2015) and the Institute of Navigation Thurlow Award (2015).

Read more on the Cockrell School website. Congratulations, Dr. Humphreys!

 

Dr. Todd Humphreys presented to the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board at their semi-annual board meeting on June 6, 2019. His presentation, titled "GNSS Radio Frequency Interference Detection from LEO", is available online.

"The National Space-Based PNT Advisory Board provides independent advice to the U.S. government on GPS-related policy, planning, program management, and funding profiles in relation to the current state of national and international satellite navigation services" (https://www.gps.gov/governance/advisory/).

A yearlong study by security experts with the Washington-based think tank C4ADS conducted by identified a pattern in which GPS devices near Putin and his entourage suddenly gave incorrect readings. The researchers also identified five buildings associated with the Kremlin that appeared to employ the technique on a rolling basis. The researchers theorize that one reason "spoofing" is deployed is to protect Putin and other Russian officials from attacks or surveillance by drones that rely on GPS.

 

 

However, there's a drawback to creating a GPS bubble around a world leader, said Todd Humphreys, an engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who was involved with the study. It also makes it easier to keep track of Putin. "What's ironic is if you look at these patterns, and if you coordinate it with the movements of the leader of Russia, it appears you have a Putin detector," Humphreys said. In other words, if you detect spoofing, there's a good chance Putin may be nearby. 

 

Read the full articles featuring Dr. Humphreys on CBS News and Foreign Policy. In addition, check out this segment from the Daily Show with Trevor Noah and an interactive version of the report, "Above Us Only Stars."

 

 

During Brexit negotiations, the EU said the UK cannot retain full access to its Galileo satellite program after Brexit. In November, the UK government officially announced it would be pulling out of the system to concentrate on scoping an alternative system.

 

"Going it alone" could permit the UK to design a system built to the specifications of just one country without needing to meet the requirements imposed by all 28 EU member states. Starting your own global system “is not something you decide to give a shot to see how it goes. It’s a perpetual commitment,” Dr. Humphreys said. “In the US, it costs up to a billion dollars just to maintain our system every year.”

 

The UK Space Agency, now tendering a series of key contracts, has been given £92 million to conduct a feasibility study. The government expects it will take 18 months for this initial assessment. While opinions vary on the timetable for arriving at a fully-fledged system, Dr. Humphreys suggests that “if the UK had a clear mission and the funding, they could field a system in five years.”

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

 

 

Drones are increasingly becoming a security hazard in many ways. These include the weaponization of drones, targeting of commercial flights, and even attacks on heads of state. Current countermeasures include jamming the signal between the drone and the user, or even shooting the drone, but these have their own limitations and legal problems.

 

“[One] could quite easily modify these drones so that they go into an autonomous mode after some point, and carry out their mission without any regard for the command coming from the ground,” Dr. Humphreys says. “If that’s the case, then you can’t simply ward off these drones by jamming.”

 

Perhaps new legislation will help improve these defensive measures.

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

Drones have become more present and accessible in the last couple of years. Their increasing presence now poses as a security challenge for authorities worldwide. These drone threats include everything from the security of heads of state to unauthorized surveillance.

 

Defense strategies are being implemented to intercept drones being used in these ways. But they may not be enough. "It is very difficult to hit a drone that is coming at high speed, at 100 km/h (70 mph), and it's not hard to build drones that do that," Humphreys said." Even if you could hit one drone that came in at high speed, what if five or 10 of them attacked you all at once?"

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

 

 

Once started as a military project, GPS has found its way into the pockets of people worldwide, but it isn’t just used for maps. In fact, it is a very precise clock for computers around the Earth. When the GPS network fell apart for hours in 2016, it showed the network’s vulnerability to interference from pigeon poop on cell towers to GPS spoofing.

 

Such methods “would certainly work against Ubers, Waymo’s self-driving cars, delivery drones from Amazon,” and more, says Todd Humphreys, an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

Because GPS is so pervasive in today’s technology and economy, it needs to either be better protected or less relied upon. 

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

Rumors are circling around an autonomous, supersonic stealth fighter jet developed by the Chinese military. A photo that appeared in early June 2018 depicts an aircraft with “several of the features of supersonic stealth warplanes.” If the rumors are indeed true, this aircraft will be the first of its kind.

 

But that’s a big if, says some critics, instead suggesting that the photo is a mock-up and not the real deal. Other’s disagree. “Given China’s historical interest in developing drones for combat, and their proven prowess in supersonic and stealthy aircraft,” Dr. Humphreys said, “My guess is that this photo shows a real working combat UAV, not a mock-up.”

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.


A preliminary NTSB report involving the fatal Tesla crash in March has just be released. The report describes the accident:

 

 A Tesla Model X operating in Autopilot mode was originally following a car in front of it. Seven seconds before the crash, the system began steering left and accelerated into a highway barrier. The driver's hands were not on the wheel for the six seconds preceding the crash.

 

 

“What strikes me from the NTSB preliminary report is that the car was silent—no visual or auditory alert at all—as it drove straight into the concrete median barrier,” says Dr. Humphreys “Yet the car’s forward radar must surely have sensed the highly reflective crash attenuator mounted on the barrier.” The preliminary report does not address the cause of the accident. A final conclusion is due in the coming months. 

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.


The Uber self-driving vehicle involved in fatal accident earlier this year wasn’t set to stop in an emergency, states a preliminary NTSB report. The Uber vehicle, a Volvo sport-utility car, is equipped with automatic emergency braking, however the system was disabled by Uber to “reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior.”

 

According to the NTSB, the Volvo system decided 1.3 seconds before the impact that emergency braking was needed. “Over those critical 1.3 seconds, the car could have slowed down from 43 to 24 mph before the collision,” says Dr. Humphreys. “That would have given the pedestrian a better chance of surviving the collision.”

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

Since its inception, global reliance on GPS has increased tremendously. The Department of Defense has recognized this dependence as a single point-of-failure and is seeking to augment GPS with other systems to mitigate the effect of GPS jamming and spoofing. The goal is not to replace GPS, only to augment it with other redundant systems.

One potential solution are pseudo-satellites: “transmitters deployed in terrestrial constellations and, potentially, in aerial vehicles.” Other systems might target situational awareness: identifying when GPS has been compromised and informing commanding officers when it occurs.

“Situational awareness is critical in the cyberwarfare realm… Spoofing attacks that succeed keep targets in the dark long enough to accomplish their objectives, says Todd Humphreys… Conversely, targets want to detect an attack as soon as possible so they can take corrective action.”

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

 The Russian military has been jamming US military drones in Syria for the past several weeks following a series of suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians in eastern Ghouta. The Russian military was concerned about retaliation and began jamming the GPS systems of drones, impacting US operations.

 

“Jamming, which means blocking or scrambling a drone’s reception…can be uncomplicated”, says Dr. Humphreys. “GPS receivers in most drones can be fairly easily jammed.“ 

 

Russia was caught jamming drones in Ukraine after the invasion of Crimea. The jammers has a significant impact on the United Nations surveillance fleet, grounding it for days.

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

 

Since GPS' inception in the 1970s, global reliance on the timing and positioning system has steadily increased. Today, GPS is used to do everything navigation to time-stamping financial transactions to dropping bombs. While GPS has certainly changed modern society for the better, researchers have become concerned with the global dependency on the service. What happens if it's suddenly not available?   

 

GPS is vulnerable to attacks like jamming and spoofing. Five years ago, Todd Humphreys and a group of researchers boarded an $80-million yacht and spoofed GPS signals to lead it off course. "During that experiment, none of the equipment on the yacht's bridge ever set off an alarm," said Todd Humphreys. "The spoofing was so subtle that the automated systems could not detect that anything was wrong."

 

Now researchers are scrambling to find a way to harden GPS against attacks. Many researchers are looking at integrating signals from different sources such as radio, TV, and cell signals. "For robustness, you really need multiple sources."

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

 

A self-driving Uber vehicle ran into and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, AZ on Sunday, March 18th. The video collected by the Tempe police show the moments leading up to the collision. The vehicle was traveling around 40 mph at around 10 pm at night when the vehicle struck a woman walking her bike across the road. The self-driving vehicle made no attempt to brake or swerve before the impact. The human operator was looking down for approximately five seconds before the crash.

Uber's vehicles are equipped with laser sensors, radar, and cameras used to detect its surroundings. "The video is damning for Uber", said Todd Humphreys. "This appears to have been a serious failure of the Uber perception system ... This accident calls into question Uber's ability to correctly and promptly interpret its data."

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

Next generation GPS chips will permit global localization to within 30 cm, a big step forward for self-driving vehicles among other applications. Broadcom has announced that their next generation GPS chips will use less battery, work in urban canyons, and will have an accuracy of 30 cm. Current GPS units have an accuracy of 3-5 meters, sufficient to determine which turn to take to navigate around a city, but not accurate enough for self-driving vehicles. 

 

“Todd E. Humphreys, associate professor of engineering at the University of Texas, said that one of the key advantages of autonomous vehicles is the ability to send them down the road in tight formations called “platoons.” Cars would be separated by just a few yards, reducing wind resistance by drafting like NASCAR drivers do, slashing fuel consumption and dramatically increasing the number of cars that could fit on a highway. But platooning will work only if each car knows its exact location, down to the foot.”

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

GPS underpins many modern systems, from time stamping financial transactions to map creation and navigation, but the system is vulnerable. In Summer 2017, dozens of ships in the Black Sea suddenly reported that their GPS units were malfunctioning and displaying the ships as inland. Experts indicate that this was a GPS spoofing attack performed by Russia. "Do I think this is a sign that the spoofing is government backed or state sponsored?" said Todd Humphreys, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin. "I would have to say the evidence points to 'yes.' "

 

Until recently, GPS spoofing hasn’t been considered a threat. Recent events however, are changing minds. “We are dangerously vulnerable to spoofing,” Humphreys says. In 2012, Humphreys successfully spoofed a GPS unit on a yacht, taking over the navigation system and misguiding it. "We found that we didn't raise any alarms on the bridge," he said of the experiment. "The spoofing was clandestine."

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

GPS isn't perfect; it it often off on the order of 1-10 meters, but it is almost never off by 25 miles. According to Gurvan Le Meur, the captain of a tanker traveling on the Black Sea in June this year, his GPS reported that the ship was located 25-30 miles from where it actually way. Furthermore--and perhaps most startling--the GPS was absolutely sure that it was at this new location. 

 

After restarting the equipment, the GPS was still incorrectly reporting the ship's position. It seemed not to be a device fault, rather a directed spoofing attack. The evidence indicates that the attack came from Russia, as the ships reported their locations around the Russian Gelendzhik airport.

 

This isn't the first time that spoofing has been detected in correspondence with Russia. GPS spoofing has reportedly occurred around the Kremlin, affecting cell phones and GPS-based navigation. This was particularly impactful on Yandex Taxi, a taxi service in Russia that relies on GPS to navigate around Moscow.

 

Read the full article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

Throughout several days in the end of June, over 20 ships reported problems with GPS reception in the Black Sea. According to experts, the problems were probably a result of an attack on the GPS infrastructure.

 

Logs from ships affected by the GPS spoofing have been recovered and the evidence appears conclusive that it was specifically a spoofing attack. One can clearly see the ships' GPS position being manipulated as the ships jump around the sea and a nearby Russian airport.

 

"The evidence points strongly to a spoofing attack. The captain’s account and the pictures he sent are quite convincing. And according to my sources it’s still ongoing, but at a lower signal strength", reports Dr. Humpreys. 

 

Read the full article featuring Dr Humphreys.

The US Navy is still investigating the causes behind the two US Navy collisions in the past two months. Many theories have been put forth, including GPS spoofing or jamming. Experts suggest that it is highly unlikely, but not impossible. 

 

GPS spoofing and jamming attacks are possible and have been demonstrated. GPS attacks likely caused ship navigation malfunctions in the Black Sea this summer where many ships suddenly reported that they were located inland Russia. Professor Todd Humphreys of the University of Texas successfully demonstrated such an attack in 2013 when he and his group of graduate students hijacked the navigation of a state-of-the-art yacht.

 

With regard to the US Navy ships, Professor Humphreys believes that the evidence is not indicative of GPS spoofing. Read the full article featuring Professor Humphreys.

An oil tanker collided with the USS John S. McCain near Singapore this week, injuring five sailors, starting a search for ten more missing sailors, and sparking concerns about potential GPS foul-play. 

"There's something more than just human error going on," says Jeff Stutzman, a chief intelligence officer. "Statistically, it looks very suspicious," Dr. Humphreys chimes in. GPS spoofing has been on the rise lately, affecting ships in the Black Sea last month.

As fully autonomous ships come online and our reliance on global shipping trade increases, concerns regarding the security of onboard electronic systems are on the rise. "It would be mayhem if the right team came in [the English Channel] and decided to do a spoofing attack."

Read the full McClatchy article featuring Dr. Humphreys.

Black Sea shipping is the latest target of GPS spoofing, according to captains of these ships in late June of this year. The GPS receivers aboard the ships began to act erratically, reporting that the ships were on land or too far out at sea.

Dr. Humphreys says the evidence indicates that this wasn't a case of signal jamming, rather it was a deliberate attack that falsifies GPS signals to misguide ships. Dr. Humphreys demonstrated in 2013 that this attack is legitimate and viable when he and his team used it to control a state-of-the-art yacht. 

"We've become so dependent on GPS that we have let the other systems atrophy", Dr. Humphreys warns. While there are ways to detect spoofing, we must not forget the other tools we have available and rely solely on GPS.

Listen to the five minute long podcast segment with Dr. Humphreys starting at 19:15.

In June of this year, reports surfaced of ships in the Black Sea experiencing problems with their satellite navigation. Their GPS receivers told them they were somewhere they weren't - something known as GPS spoofing.

Dr. Humphreys has long warned of the dangers of GPS spoofing. In 2013, he and his team performed a test of spoofing on a state-of-the-art yacht. According to Humphreys, these ships experienced the same thing, only this time it was not being done by researchers, but rather by a government entity.

Speaking to New Scientist, Dr. Humphreys said that "[GPS spoofing] affects safety-of-life operations over a large area. In congested waters with poor weather, such as the English Channel, it would likely cause great confusion, and probably collisions."

Read the full article here.

After a recent spoofing incident perpetrated by the Kremlin, the dangers of sensor spoofing for autonomous cars feels more real than ever. Dr. Humphreys spoke with Inverse about the vulnerabilities of autonomous cars and the threat of GPS spoofing. "Everybody’s primary fear is they’re traveling down the road in an autonomous car here and somehow hacks them remotely and takes them off to some far-off place and locks the door", said Dr. Humphreys. The Radionavigation Lab is hard at work to develop countermeasures to these problems, such as improving cryptography and developing better signal-detection detectors.

Read the full article here.

Two of Dr. Humphreys' students, Lakshay Narula and Matthew Murrian, were one of only eight teams chosen for the Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship for 2017. Their project focuses on localizing pedestrians and cyclists to within half a meter, enabling self-driving vehicles to safely navigate with confidence. Their approach uses precise GNSS developed by Dr. Humphreys' lab in conjunction with other sensing modalities, including an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and a visible-light camera. 

Read more here and here. Congratulations to Lakshay and Matthew!

 

Today, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are no match for manned fighter pilots. US human pilots have shot down two of them this month alone. However, this could change. Speaking to Motherboard, the tech arm of Vice News, Dr. Todd Humphreys predicted that "UAVs will eventually achieve superiority" due to their ability to "pull G's far beyond what a human can withstand".

This transition could happen within the next 20 years, according to Dr. Humphreys. Read the full article here.

The rise of autonomous drones for commercial use promises new and exciting possibilities, but the threat of these drones being compromised by an attacker still looms. As more and more companies begin sending more and more drones into the skies, the question of security must be seriously examined. 

According to Dr. Humphreys, commercial drones remain "very hackable", with a number of attack vectors available. Read the full article here.

Earlier this year, reports started to surface on Russian media of a strange phenomenon. In certain areas of central Moscow, mostly within sight of the Kremlin walls, satellite signals were scrambled. Instead of showing true locations, people's phones were showing them almost 20 miles away at Vnukovo airport.

Dr. Humphreys spoke with CNN about the reported GPS spoofing occurring near the Kremlin. Read the full article here.

GPS World recently featured a paper authored by Dr. Humphreys and students from the Radionavigation Lab. The paper discusses the details of low-cost precise positioning, particularly in regards to autonomous driving.

In order to achieve this level of precision, a dense reference network is required. The paper outlines the implementation of RNL's own network, the Longhorn Reference Network. The paper also includes a demonstration of precise positioning being used for lane-keeping in autonomous vehicles.

Read the full paper here.

IEEE Spectrum recently featured an article discussing centimeter-accurate GPS positioning for automated driving. Dr. Todd Humphreys discussed why centimeter-accurate GPS positioning is necessary, as well as some of the challenges that have yet to be solved.

“When there’s a standard deviation of 10 cm, the probability of slipping into next lane is low enough—meaning 1 part in a million" [Humphreys] said. This is opposed to the current meter-level accurate GPS tracking, which can increase the probability of lane slipping up to 1 or 10 - or maybe higher.

However, there are still some obstacles remaining, one of which is the time it takes for a centimeter-accurate GPS signal to converge. Right now, that time could be up to 5 minutes. According to Humphreys, that amount of time would be unacceptable to most users: “My vision of the modern driver is one who’s impatient, who wants to snap into 10-cm-or-better accuracy and push the ‘autonomy’ button."

See a video overview here, or read the paper.

nbc

A recent NBC News article on the threat of GPS jamming and spoofing featured comments and insight from Dr. Todd Humphreys. The article also cites some interesting cases of intentional GPS jamming in Europe and the UK.

"The threat to the Global Positioning System (GPS) — the critical space-based navigational, positional and timing network — is escalating as potentially more destructive "spoofing" devices become readily available."

"Humphreys estimates that ... "the difficulty of mounting a spoofing attack has dropped by maybe a factor of a hundred since 2012," when he first raised the alarm."

Read the full story on NBC News website.

Take a look at our latest paper on the topic:
GNSS Spoofing and Detection

spectrum

Dr. Todd Humphreys recently co-authored an article on GPS spoofing defenses with Dr. Mark Psiaki. This article is the cover story of the August 2016 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine.

"Cellphone towers, stock exchanges, and the power grid all rely at least partly on GPS for precise timing. A well-coordinated spoof could interrupt communications, confuse automated financial traders, and inflict crippling power outages. In a worst-case scenario, a spoofer’s operator could overtake airplanes or ships to induce a crash, facilitate a heist, or even kidnap a VIP."

"There are three main ways to protect against GPS spoofing: cryptography, signal-distortion detection, and direction-of-arrival sensing. No single method can stop every spoof, but Psiaki’s team has found that combining strategies can provide a reasonably secure countermeasure that could be commercially deployed."

Read the full story on IEEE Spectrum website.

Take a look at our latest paper on the topic:
GNSS Spoofing and Detection

kxan

Austin, TX -- Dr. Todd Humphreys and his students at the UT Radionavigation Lab recently demonstrated lane-departure warning system at the University of Texas at Austin campus deployed on a vehicle.

"While it may only be a centimeter at a time, what a University of Texas at Austin professor and his team have been able to accomplish is a monumental step in making autonomous vehicles a part of everyday life."

"By working with local start-up, RadioSense, and using an app called Lane Watcher, the team is now able to demonstrate the accuracy of the GPS technology. Though the app won’t need to be used with the GPS, it helps to demonstrate visually what’s going on in the brains of the car. The app will show your vehicle on the road and immediately change colors when the car begins to drift."

Read the full story and watch the video on KXAN website.

Take a look at our latest papers on the topic:
A Dense Reference Network For Mass Market Centimeter Accurate Positioning
On the Feasibility of cm-Accurate Positioning via a Smartphone's Antenna and GNSS Chip

kxan

Austin, TX -- Dr. Todd Humphreys and his students at the UT Radionavigation Lab have built an outdoor arena for testing automated drones as a part of the Machine Games project. KXAN News recently covered this story.

"There is a lot to learn when it comes to the technology behind drones and how it could eventually affect our everyday lives. That’s what researchers at the University of Texas are looking to answer with the Machine Games project."

"The overall goal of the project is to make drones a part of everyday life, helping with tasks from searching for an open parking spot to delivering a pizza without human assistance. UT Professor Todd Humphreys says that drone technology is primitive and they are in the beginning stages of discovering all it can really do in the next few years."

Read the full story and watch the video on KXAN website.

newyorker

The New Yorker featured an article on GPS: its importance in our lives and its vulnerability to spoofing attacks. Research related to GPS spoofing at the UT Radionavigation Lab was the center of attention in this write-up by Greg Milner.

"The U.S. Department of Homeland Security classifies sixteen infrastructure sectors—including dams, agriculture, health care, emergency services, and information technology—as critical, and therefore particularly vulnerable to sabotage. All but three require G.P.S. for essential functions." ... "An expert in software-defined radio—the modification of radio signals with a computer, as opposed to mixers, amplifiers, and other hardware—Humphreys used a general-purpose processor to build what he calls a “formidable lying machine,” a box that “listens” to the G.P.S. signal, gradually builds a bogus signal that aligns perfectly with the real, and then slowly overtakes it."

Read the full story on The New Yorker website.

kxan

Austin, TX -- "Imagine a GPS that can place you within a centimeter of where you are located on a map. This type of accuracy would not only help keep you and your family safe, but it could potentially help drivers navigate the roads better. It’s called precise vehicle positioning and it’s 100 times more accurate than your standard GPS. University of Texas professor Todd Humphreys has been working on the project for four years." 

The UT Radionavigation Lab is working on making Austin the first city in the world with mass-market centimeter-accurate GPS. To acquire this accuracy, 20 solar powered reference stations will be placed around Austin by the end of May. You can think of this network of 20 reference stations as smart infrastructure that make it possible to use a $50 device, instead of a $500 or $5000 device, to locate a bicyclist, a bus, or a car within its lane of travel. KXAN news covered this story featuring Dr. Humphreys and his students.

Read the full story and watch the video clip on the KXAN website.

Take a look at our latest papers on the topic:
A Dense Reference Network For Mass Market Centimeter Accurate Positioning
On the Feasibility of cm-Accurate Positioning via a Smartphone's Antenna and GNSS Chip

hyundai

Berkeley, CA -- Dr. Humphreys delivered the Hyundai Distinguished Lecture at UC Berkeley.  The seminar series is a feature of the Hyundai Center of Excellence at UC Berkeley.  

Precise and reliable location is one of the primary challenges of vehicle automation. Driver safety demands utter reliability yet the economics of the mass market demand commodity-level costs. In his presentation, Dr. Humphreys argued that low-cost and robust centimeter-accurate satellite navigation is possible and is a must-have component of automated vehicle sensor suites. Such a system under development at the University of Texas at Austin is 100 times more precise than standard GPS and 100 times less expensive than existing precision GPS systems.

Download the presentation.

Take a look at our latest papers on the topic:
A Dense Reference Network For Mass Market Centimeter Accurate Positioning
On the Feasibility of cm-Accurate Positioning via a Smartphone's Antenna and GNSS Chip

dailybeast

“For at least two years, the Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad could see what the Israeli military’s surveillance drones saw. That’s the accusation of Israeli prosecutors, who this week arrested a man [Maagad Ben Juwad Oydeh] they saw hacked into the drones’ video feeds. Israeli authorities have provided only the barest details of Oydeh’s background and alleged crimes. The drone hack is possibly the most dramatic of Oydeh’s alleged crimes, if not the most useful for terrorist planners.”

Dr. Todd Humphreys and Dr. Richard Langley (University of New Brunswick) explain how Oydeh could have managed to hack the drones' video feed, and how Israeli authorities may have come to know about it.

Read the article on thedailybeast.com.

comsoc

Dr. Todd Humphreys wrote an article for the February 2016 issue of IEEE ComSoc Technology News.

“Professor Todd Humphreys, an expert in the James Bond world of faking out GPS signaling, tells us what the latest news is for the reliability of the GPS systems that have become increasingly important to our everyday lives. Will GPS become the next front in the war between the modern world and the hackers and terrorists who wish to disrupt it? If so it will be engineers and not super spies who will save the day.”

Read the article on comsoc.org.

wired

A recent article on Wired featured comments from Dr. Humphreys's Congressional testimony on the threat of rogue UAVs.

“With only minor changes to [a] UAV’s autopilot software, of which highly capable open-source variants exist, an attacker could readily disable geofencing and could configure the UAV to operate under ‘radio silence,’ ignoring external radio control commands and emitting no radio signals of its own” ... “Imposing restrictions on small UAVs beyond the sensible restrictions the Federal Aviation Administration recently proposed would not significantly reduce the threat of rogue UAVs yet would shackle the emerging commercial UAV industry”.

Read the article on wired.com.

nbc

The UT Radionavigation Lab featured on NBC Nightly News with Kristen Welker on October 31, 2015. The segment focused on anti-UAV techniques developed by Dr. Humphreys and his students, which have come into the spotlight following the inadvertent landing of a drone at the White House.

The news segment can be viewed at the NBS News website.

Todd Humphreys

Austin, TX—Dr. Todd Humphreys delivered a keynote presentation at the 2015 Texas GIS Forum, where he talked about rendering of geo-referenced decimeter accurate maps using Low-Cost Mobile Positioning on a smartphone along with the smartphone's camera.

This presentation focused on techniques for performing carrier-phase differential positioning using a low-quality antenna, and generation of an accurate 3-dimensional point cloud using a smartphone. The points in the generated map are geo-referenced which enables distributed generation of maps, unlike the standard computer vision techniques where a continuous sequence of overlapping images is required.

The presentation can be downloaded from here.

RSI, UMN

Minneapolis, MN—Dr. Todd Humphreys delivered a seminar at the Roadway Safety Insititute at University of Minnesota, where he talked about Low-Cost Centimeter-Accurate Mobile Positioning with attention to application in Vehicular Networks. GNSS, along with other sensors, will be a part of the Connected (Semi-) Autonomous Vehicles of the future, and accurate location and timing via GNSS is an important aspect of roadway safety.

The primary barrier to performing centimeter-accurate carrier-phase-differential GNSS (CDGNSS) positioning on smartphones and other consumer devices is their low-cost, low-quality GNSS antennas that have poor multipath suppression. The time correlation of multipath errors and their magnitude significantly increases the initialization period of GNSS receivers using low-cost antennas.

This presentation focused on techniques for reducing the initialization time for centimeter-accurate positioning on mobile devices. It further examined technical and market prerequisites for improved safety for semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles, globally registered augmented and virtual reality, and crowd-sourced three-dimensional mapping.

Watch the full length presentation at Roadway Safety Institute webpage.

Tampa, FL—Nathan Green nathanwon the best paper presentation award in the Advanced Technologies in High Precision GNSS Positioning Session of the ION GNSS+ 2015 conference for his paper entitled "Fault Free Integrity of Mid-Level Voting for Triplex Differential GPS Solutions."

Details about the session proceedings: Session E1: Advanced Technologies in High Precision GNSS Positioning 1.

Scientific American Logo

"Amazon badly wants to deliver packages of DVDs and Cheez-Its to your doorstep in a matter of minutes—and it wants to use drones to do so. At a NASA convention in July, Amazon Prime Air’s vice president proposed the company’s vision for how unmanned aircraft could one day safely navigate our skies. And NASA recently began testing its first version of an air traffic management system for drones—the agency is partnering with companies including Amazon and Verizon to develop the system."

"For now, regulations and technical issues make widespread drone deliveries impossible, which means an army of flying machines probably will not fetch your holiday gifts this year or even the next. Here’s what experts note as the major challenges to resolve before delivery by drone becomes a reality."

Continue reading the article at Scientific American, which features comments by Dr. Humphreys.

Ken Pesyna, Jr.

Mountain View, CA—Ken Pesyna, a doctoral candidate at The University of Texas Electrical Engineering School, has been selected to receive the 2015 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award. The 28-year-old researcher will receive the award at the Royal Society in London on October 20, 2015. 

“Ken’s work on centimeter-accurate and power efficient GPS may have turned conventional wisdom about this field on its head,” says Bob Tkach, a Marconi Fellow and chairman of the Young Scholar selection committee. “His ability not only to develop a new theory but to prove it in practice was truly impressive. Ken is on track to make breakthrough contributions in our field.”

Continue reading the announcement from the Marconi Society.

The National PNT Advisory Board invited Dr. Humphreys to speak at their "GPS toughening" working group meeting on June 10 and then to present before the full Advisory Board on June 11.  His presentation concerned GPS navigation message authentication as a means of "toughening" GPS receivers against unintentional and intentional GPS spoofing.  As part of the presentation, Humphreys offered a categorization and an ordering of spoofing attacks and defenses that will be a good starting point for a proper civil GPS threat assessment.

See the meeting agenda, the posted slides (pdf) for "Toughening Techniques for GPS Receivers: Navigation Message Authentication," and the full presentation (pptx).  

The Cockrell School of Engineering and the Student Engineering Council (SEC) presented Dr. Todd Humphreys with the 2015 Outstanding Faculty Award for the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics on April 30th, 2015.  Awardees are selected within each department by the SEC on the basis of nominations from undergraduate students.  The Radionavigation Lab's Deep Mukherji presented Dr. Humphreys with the award at the annual SEC awards banquet.
 

Apple and Coherent Navigation

Apple confirmed on May 16, 2015 that they have acquired the startup Coherent Navigation, which Dr. Humphreys co-founded in 2008 together with Clark Cohen (CEO at founding), Bill Bencze (VP of Engineering), Brent Ledvina (VP of Business Development), Mark Psiaki, and Mike Eglington. Dr. Humphreys left Coherent Navigation in 2009 to join the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, but continued to collaborate as a private consultant and sub-contractor until the acquisition. Congratulations to the Coherent Navigation team for their hard work over the years -- especially to Brent Ledvina and Bill Bencze, the two co-founders who shepherded the venture all the way through acquisition. Congratulations also to other key players: Paul Lego (CEO of Coherent Navigation at the time of acquisition), Isaac Miller (CTO of Coherent Navigation), and Rob Brumley (COO of Coherent Navigation). Never in recent memory has there been assembled such a concentration of position, navigation, and timing expertise in a single startup as in Coherent Navigation.

The acquisition was covered by MacRumors, the New York Times, and other news agencies.

IEEE Spectrum

"Engineers at the University of Texas at Austin have now made a small, cheap GPS system for mobile devices that gives centimeter-precision positioning accuracy. Such centimeter precision could let drones deliver packages to your porch, autonomous vehicles navigate safely, and be used in precision farming. It could also allow for some neat virtual reality tricks and games if coupled with a smartphone camera.

Continue reading the IEEE Spectrum article, which features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

UT

"AUSTIN, Texas—Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a centimeter-accurate GPS-based positioning system that could revolutionize geolocation on virtual reality headsets, cellphones and other technologies, making global positioning and orientation far more precise than what is currently available on a mobile device.

Continue reading the UT press release, which features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

KUT

"AUSTIN - If you use your smartphone for directions, you know how annoying it can be when the tracking device gets your locations wrong. Now a team of researchers at the University of Texas’ Cockrell School of Engineering say they may have fixed that problem.  But there’s more: They also think they’ve brought a science fiction dream closer to reality.  In the space adventure series Star Trek canon, the holodeck was a room where the characters could create virtual worlds and interact within them.

Continue reading the KUT article, which features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

KVUE

"AUSTIN - In this Tech Tuesday, a tool we use all the time is getting better and it's all thanks to research at the University of Texas. "We use GPS in a variety of ways including getting around, but the University of Texas is about to make GPS systems much more valuable. 'We have developed a way to get low-cost, very precise locations, centimeter precise locations,' said Todd Humphreys, Assistant Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas.

Continue reading the KVUE article, which features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

Dr. Humphreys and Secretary Foxx

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx was hosted by the Radionavigation Lab and other members of WNCG and CTR for a discussion on the future of transportation.  The discussion covered secure perception for autonomous systems and also centimeter-accurate low-cost positioning for intelligent transportation systems and for virtual reality.

Read more about Secretary Foxx's visit in a WNCG article.  

AP"NEW YORK (AP) — To improve airline safety, maybe we need to remove the pilots.

"That radical idea is decades away, if it ever becomes a reality. But following the intentional crashing of Germanwings Flight 9525 by the co-pilot, a long-running debate over autonomous jets is resurfacing. At the very least, some have suggested allowing authorities on the ground to take control of a plane if there is a rogue pilot in the cockpit.

Continue reading the AP article, which features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

NSFDr. Humphreys has been selected to receive the NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award to study “Secure Perception for Autonomous Systems.”  

The award was announced in a press release from the Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department at UT-Austin.   View the NSF's summary of all the 2015 recipients of the CAREER award.  

 

Todd HumphreysDr. Humphreys testified at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, titled "Unmanned Aerial System Threats: Exploring Security Implications and Mitigation Technologies," on March 18, 2015.  View the oral and written testimony at the website of the Committee.  The full video is accessed from the upper right hand corner of the page.

The hearing was discussed in a CNN article and an Inside Unmanned Aerial Systems article.  Dr. Humphreys authored an op-ed in the Star-Telegram on the same subject. 

CBS Overnight America discusses the problem of preventing drones from entering restricted areas.   Listen to a segment of the radio show, which features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

NBC News"Mysterious, middle-of-the-night drone flights by the U.S. Secret Service during the next several weeks over parts of Washington — usually off-limits as a strict no-fly zone — are part of secret government testing intended to find ways to interfere with rogue drones or knock them out of the sky, The Associated Press has learned. A U.S. official briefed on the plans said the Secret Service was testing drones for law enforcement or protection efforts and to look for ways, such as signal jamming, to thwart threats from civilian drones. The drones were being flown between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.

Access the NBC news article and video, which includes an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

Ken PesynaAustin, TX—Ken Pesyna gave a GPS World webinar on GNSS antennas. You can view the webinar recording, or the related paper and magazine article.

IEEE Computer Society"No system or software designer, innovator, or inventor has a perfect record. As with baseball sluggers, a 33 percent success rate with significant projects—delivered on time without errors—probably qualifies you as a superstar. So the act of coming up with a bad idea, or a failed implementation thereof, doesn't disqualify you from getting kudos.  But there are consumer-level bad ideas and industrial strength bad ideas. The latter are the more worrisome, especially if they recur with any frequency. As such, I’ll deal with them here.

Continue reading the IEEE Computer article, which discusses Dr. Humphrey's research.

Austin, TX — Ken Pesyna, Robert Heath, and Todd Humphreys authored the cover story of GPS World on centimeter-accurate positioning using smartphone GNSS antennas in the February 2015 edition.

gpsworld"The smartphone antenna’s poor multipath suppression and irregular gain pattern result in large time-correlated phase errors that significantly increase the time to integer ambiguity resolution as compared to even a low-quality stand-alone patch antenna. The time to integer resolution — and to a centimeter-accurate fix — is significantly reduced when more GNSS signals are tracked or when the smartphone experiences gentle wavelength-scale random motion.

Continue reading the GPS World article, or download a PDF copy.

Todd Humphreys

"The Institute of Navigation (ION) has selected Todd Humphreys, assistant professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the Cockrell School of Engineering, to receive the Colonel Thomas L. Thurlow Award. Humphreys was selected 'for contributions that enhance radionavigation security and robustness in the face of intentional spoofing and natural interference.' ION presented Humphreys with the award at the ION Technical Meeting (ITM) in Dana Point, California, January 26-28.

Continue reading the announcement from the UT Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics department.

WSJ

"The Secret Service said it believes a hobbyist accidentally crashed a drone onto the White House grounds early Monday, an incident that prompted a lockdown and delivered a wake-up call over the potential terrorism threat of unmanned aircraft.

"The person flying the 2-foot helicopter that crashed called the Secret Service after the incident was widely reported and has been cooperating with agents, the agency said. Authorities didn't identify the person.

"The Secret Service said the crash appears to have 'occurred as a result of recreational use of the device,' but officials said the agency is still following up on other leads.

Continue reading the WSJ article, and a follow-up WSJ article entitled "Criminals, Terrorists Find Uses for Drones, Raising Concerns," both of which feature interviews with Dr. Humphreys.

KXAN

"The man considered to be one of the biggest influences in the transportation world is in Austin this week. Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk addressed a crowd Thursday at the 10th Annual Texas Transportation Forum. Musk, who has overseen product development and design for all of Tesla’s electric cars, also is the creative spark behind the development of rockets and spacecraft for SpaceX. Musk’s work embodies the idea of transformation, which is the theme of this year’s Texas Transportation Forum.

Continue reading the article, which features an interview with Dr. Humphreys, at KXAN

gpsworld

"In the summer of 2012, a small robotic helicopter, painted Texas Longhorns orange and white, climbed into the air above the team’s empty football field in Austin. Then the device suddenly plummeted toward the grass, its controller overridden by a team of university- sanctioned hackers. A few days later, in the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the same group (with permission) easily hijacked the university’s $80,000 military-grade drone.

"No one had ever done the attack that we did before,” says Todd Humphreys, director of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. At least not in the declassified world. But that doesn’t mean it’s not easy to replicate. Humphreys’s team used a relatively simple hand-built radio device to exploit a major loophole in drone security: the devices’ reliance on unauthenticated position data beamed from GPS satellites."

Continue reading the article at Popular Science

Dr. Todd HumphreysDr. Humphreys lectured on "Drones: Myths, Facts, Hacks, and The Future" on Friday, November 21, 2014 as the 93rd installment of the Hot Science Cool Talks outreach series hosted by UT's Environmental Science Institute.

To view the recorded lecture visit the ESI website and click the “View Webcast” button.

"The drone revolution isn’t coming—it’s already here. Can UT expertise help us navigate the future?alcalade

"The stadium was buzzing. It was a balmy day in late August and more than 93,000 fans were finally getting to see the topic of endless hype for themselves. Thousands of articles had been written, teeth had been gnashed, hands were wrung, and no one—not even the experts—knew what would happen. They weren’t watching the game. They were watching a tiny white helicopter with four rotors and an array of flashing lights cruising high above the Longhorns’ season opener."

Continue reading the Alcalde article, which features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

gpsworld

A collaboration between the UT Radionavigation Lab, Cornell, and the White Rose of Drachs, is reported in the GPS World magazine.  

"A new method detects spoofing attacks that are resistant to standard RAIM technique and can sense an attack in a fraction of a second without external aiding. The signal-in-space properties used to detect spoofing are the relationships of the signal arrival directions to the vector that points from one antenna to the other. A real-time implementation succeeded against live-signal spoofing attacks aboard a superyacht, the White Rose of Drachs..., cruising in international waters."

Continue reading the article at GPS World

White Rose of DrachsBefore March 2013, the members of the UT Austin Radionavigation Lab and the Cornell GPS Lab had never heard of the superyacht called the White Rose of Drachs... They did, however, know something relevant to superyachts and other high-value maritime and aviation assets: how to spoof their GNSS navigation systems and how to detect spoofing attacks... The spoofing and detection tests started in earnest on Friday morning, June 27th, off the southern coast of Italy... The Cornell spoofing detection system ... correctly identified authentic GPS signals as such. It correctly identified spoofing attacks after the victim receiver had been dragged off to a false position and timing fix. 

Continue reading the series of Cornell blog posts.

NDRNorddeutscher Rundfunk (North German Broadcasting), a German public television service, produced the 44-minute documentary film "Im Visier der Hacker - Wie gefährlich wird das Netz?"  The film, whose title translates to "Targeted by the hackers: how dangerous is the power?," features interviews with Dr. Humphreys and Daniel Shepard on GPS spoofing.  The film is in German, but the producers are preparing English subtitles.  

Watch the film at NDR's website.

Christian Science Monitor"Commercial drones expected to fly US skies in coming years, delivering pizza or monitoring power lines, would be dangerously vulnerable to hackers without a variety of potentially costly countermeasures to their GPS navigation systems, results of a federal study indicate."

Continue reading the Christian Science Monitor article that features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

zakRadionavigation lab alum Dr. Zak Kassas will join the Electrical Engineering Department at The University of California, Riverside (UCR) in the Fall 2014 Quarter as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Kassas' Ph.D. focused on studying a novel navigation paradigm termed collaborative opportunistic navigation (COpNav). COpNav aims to exploit the plenitude of ambient radio frequency signals of opportunity in the environment (e.g., cellular phone, HDTV, AM/FM, etc) to enable navigation in GNSS-challenged environments, such as indoors, deep urban canyons, and environments under malicious attacks (e.g., jamming and spoofing). Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., Dr. Kassas was a Research & Development Engineer with the Control Design & Dynamical Systems Simulation group at National Instruments Corp. and an Adjunct Professor at Texas State University. Dr. Kassas is a senior member of the IEEE, has published more than twenty refereed journal and conference articles and a book chapter, and holds one U.S. patent. Dr. Kassas' research at UCR will span the areas of estimation, navigation, autonomous vehicles, and intelligent transportation systems.

Dr. Kassas recently held a seminar targeted at Ph.D. students and postdocs with academic career aspirations to share his advice on landing a faculty position.

 

sxswRNL presented at the 2014 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX, which offers the unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies.  

On Friday, March 7, Dr. Humphreys and Jahshan Bhatti presented "Location Deception: Yacht vs. GPS Spoofer."  Audio recording of the presentation is available on soundcloud.

 

bbc"If you were watching Iranian state TV in early December 2011, you would have seen an unusual flying object paraded in front of viewers. Windowless, squat, with a pointed nose, its two wings made it the shape of a manta ray. The trophy on show was an RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone, a key weapon in the intelligence gathering arsenal of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Standing in a hangar on a military airfield, the drone was seemingly undamaged. Indeed, Iranian officials insisted that it had not been shot down; rather, they claimed an unusual coup: to have hacked the drone while it was flying near Iran’s border over Afghanistan and forced it to land." 

Continue reading the BBC article that features an interview with Dr. Humphreys. 

"pmNot everyone is thrilled with the rise of civilian drones in American skies. Last week, after Amazon hyped its plan to deliver packages in half an hour via UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), we wondered about the drone backlash happening in many part of the U.S. And while an angry few threatened to shoot down these delivery drones, a more pressing concern seems to be: What if people try to hack them?"

Continue reading the Popular Mechanics article that features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

 

"In a stunning display of engineering, students in the UT Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics hacked a superyacht’s GPS system in the Mediterranean Sea. They veered the $80 million vessel off course, proving that such a feat could be performed using cutting-edge technology. In fact, the students not only sent false GPS signals to the yacht’s navigation system, they actually created the device that originated the misdirection.

Using a process called spoofing, the students subtly gained control of the 213-foot yacht and veered it off course a few degrees at a time. When the system attempted to correct the location, the ship’s crew unknowingly adjusted their position by pointing the ship toward the new—and incorrect—path. The tech-savvy pirates gained permission for the project, but proved that security should be strengthened for such vessels, including aircraft, that use similar systems on a daily basis all over the world. Next time, hackers might not ask for consent."

Continue reading the article.

 

Austin, TX—Ken Pesyna kenwon the best paper presentation award in the Multi-Constellation/Portable Navigation Devices Session of the ION GNSS+ 2013 conference for his paper entitled "Precision Limits of Low-Energy GNSS Receivers."

Ken's research focuses on Tightly Coupled Opportunistic Navigation.

"The answer was Yes. The question: Could you hijack my yacht? Now, the rest of the story: I had just finished telling a conference audience how we brought down an drone with a specialized attack against its GPS sensor. A distinguished-looking man with a British accent handed me his card. "I don't suppose you could do the same with a 65-meter SuperYacht?""

Listen to the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Acadermic Minute interview with Dr. Humphreys.

"nytA hobbyist using a remote-control airplane mounted with a digital camera just happened to capture images last year of a Dallas creek running red with pig's blood. It led to a nearby meatpacking plant being fined for illegal dumping and two of its leaders being indicted on water pollution charges."

Continue reading the New York Times article that features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

"nprVisions of the future don't just have to come from science fiction. There's very real technology today giving us clues about how our future lives might be transformed. So what might our future look like? And what does it take for an idea about the future to become a reality? In this hour, TED speakers make some bold predictions and explain how we might live in the future."

Listen to the NPR Interview with Dr. Humphreys.

"Anyone who has used a Global Positioning System (GPS) navigator has seen the system's ability to tell you precisely where you are — and, most likely, has faced frustration when the device just doesn't work. Yet for the military — which uses GPS data for such mission-critical applications as target tracking, missile guidance, and simply getting around in foreign areas — GPS failure can be a matter of life or death. That's why military researchers, such as those at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, have long been exploring alternatives to the Global Positioning System."

Continue reading a Communications of the ACM article that features an interview with Dr. Humphreys.

Austin, TX—Zak Kassas zakwon the best paper presentation award in the Estimation Session of the AIAA Guidance Navigation and Control (GNC) conference, 2012 for his paper entitled "Observability Analysis of Opportunistic Navigation with Pseudorange Measurements". The awards were announced during the 2013 GNC conference.

Zak's research focuses on devising novel techniques for opportunistic and collaborative navigation.